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Probate Fee Changes 2019: What You Need To Know

Probate Fee Changes 2019: What You Need To Know
  • The Government is pushing forward with changes to the current probate fee structure in April 2019.
  • Since 1999, applications have been subject to a fixed fee for processing.
  • The new proposals set out a banded structure, where fees rise with size of the estate.
  • The Ministry of Justice has said extra money received will be spent on improving the court service as a whole.
  • Proposed draft Order approved by House of Commons Delegated Legislation Committee will next go to House of Commons where it will, barring a parliamentary defeat, be passed.

The Government is pushing forward with changes to the current probate fee structure.

The Probate Registry, which is part of the High Court, charges a fee for processing applications for a “Grant” of Representation (such as probate or letters of administration). A Grant is needed in certain estates to deal with assets such as property, shares, or bank accounts, or to deal with litigation on the estate’s behalf. It confirms the executor’s right to act under the Will, or an administrator’s right to act in an intestate estate (where there is no Will).   

Since 1999, applications have been subject to a fixed fee for processing. Currently, if the net amount passing under the Grant is over £5,000, there is a set fee of £215 for personal applicants, or £155 where the application is made using a solicitor. The Government tried to introduce changes in 2017 but were stymied by the general election. It has now returned to the issue and this time the changes appear to be going through.

The new proposals set out a banded structure, where fees rise with the size of the estate. Estates with less than £50,000 passing under the Grant will pay no fee, which the government anticipates will help around 25,000 estates each year.  However, estates worth more than £50,000 will pay higher fees of up to £6,000 depending on the size of the estate. This is payable on top of any inheritance tax that might be due.

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has said that the extra money received, estimated at £145 million, will be spent on improving the court service as a whole. Many commentators, among the legal profession and the government, have criticised this as a “stealth tax” since the increases do not reflect the actual cost of processing the applications. However, the proposed draft Order introducing the fees was narrowly approved by the House of Commons Delegated Legislation Committee in February 2019. It will next go before the House of Commons where it will, barring a parliamentary defeat, be passed. The new fees will take effect 21 days after the Order is made.   

The proposed new fees, which will be applied as of the date of the probate application (not the date of death) are:

Value of Estate                                              Probate Fee

Estates worth up to £50,000                           £0

Estates worth from £50,000 to £300,000       £250

Estates worth from £300,000 to £500,000     £750

Estates worth from £500,000 to £1 million     £2,500

Estates worth from £1 million to £1.6 million  £4,000

Estates worth from £1.6 million to £2 million  £5,000

Estates above £2 million                                 £6,000

 

The fees will need to be paid from the estate at the time of the application, and there are options open to executors as to how to arrange this. However, there is still no guidance from the MOJ on how this will work in practice.

We anticipate that further guidance will be issued before the proposed introduction and will be able to comment further at that stage.

We recommend that anyone considering an application for probate moves quickly if the estate is likely to be caught by the new fees. Our specialist probate team would be happy to talk through the issues and assist with submitting the application. Contact us now for further information.

 

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